By Micole Williams, Entertainment Columnist
I can’t remember the last All-Black cast I’ve seen on the big screen, let alone one outside of the usual film genres. January 2012, an all-star Black cast and all-star, Star Wars creator/filmmaking icon changed the way we all see Black films. George Lucas’ Red Tails is an action-packed, historical-based drama starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Nate Parker, Ne-Yo and many other talents. To sum up the film in less than 10 words, I’d call it, The Little Engine That Could meets Mission Impossible.
Opening night alone, the movie surpassed low expectations bringing in $19 million and coming in second. So once again, one of the stories themes plays out in real life. Lucas, Black Hollywood and movie-goers of all walks of life said no to limitations proving that the sky is the limit.
It’s an exciting, meaningful and passionate project that received mixed reviews prior to, and after its release.
It’s a positive story about commitment. Like many war movies, it puts a face to a number count that many read about in periodicals, never really empathizing with real-life families whose loved ones are adopted by war.
A solid foundation of good characters, good story-telling, and a good common-goal makes it a universal story. The nation being at war plot makes it even more relevant today. Yes, it has had naysayers since day one and many will remain, but Red Tails is an exceptional movie and wherever it may fall short, it selectively makes up for it in many ways.
Watching the movie opening night was truly special. Early on, you meet a number of sturdy Black men, wearing pride and purpose just as well as their uniforms in the film. An array of fresh and familiar faces grace the screen in the first couple of minutes. The distinguished presence of the more seasoned actors, gives purpose and direction to the film while some of the break-out stars add life and comedic relief with their relentless spirits. For the ladies, there is plenty of eye-candy. The beginning starts off a bit slow and probably for good reason considering the viewer better be ready to hold on to their popcorn because they’re in for a bumpy ride. You’ll be quickly propelled into the action, never really having a moment to regroup from all the impact thrust your way. The momentum stays throughout. I found myself holding my breath, holding back tears, beaming, cringing at various moments throughout the film.
This film lives up to what action-junkies live for–the fast, fancy special effects look flawlessly real. At times the super intense dogfights were enough to bring on cheers and yells as if viewers were rooting for their favorite sports team.
The most vivid memories for me were the ones that captured a sense of brotherhood: the prayer circle, chants, the birdlike formations in the sky. The men’s profound respect for one another.
Education is probably one of the strongest and explicitly implied themes carried throughout the movie. These men were young, scholars, affluent men with bright futures ahead of them. This alone shows their nobility, and how they put their lives on the line to help bring back soldiers. Their education and skill turned an unsettling “no” into a victorious “yes.”
Lucas told USA Today… “I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk [with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions],” he said. “I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that [lower-budget] mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there.”
That is an awful lot of pressure for one movie, but luckily, this is not your ordinary movie.
The movie, for many, served as a call-to-action. To change the critical state that Black Hollywood is in, it is going to take more than Red Tails, but the movie does its part.
Photo Credit: From the personal historical files of Houston-based Tuskegee airman Dr. Luzine Bickham.